TRENTON — Fending off fierce criticism for planning to lower flags at state buildings the day of Whitney Houston’s funeral, Gov. Chris Christie said the late singer is not a role model but has earned the honor as a cultural icon.
Christie said he’s disturbed people are disparaging Houston’s accomplishments because of her troubles with substance abuse.
“This is a disease that some people struggle with and conquer on a day-to-day basis, and some people succumb to it. And I don’t believe that that should diminish the other contributions they’ve made in their life,” Christie said.
“I’m not saying that Whitney Houston is a role model. She’s not a role model in that respect, in every aspect of her life. But what she is is a cultural icon in the history of this state,” he said. “I’m disturbed by people who believe ... because of her history of substance abuse, that somehow she’s forfeited the good things that she did in her life. I just reject that on a human level.”
Christie is a former board member for the Daytop Village addiction treatment program in Mendham Borough. He is a resident of Mendham Township, the town where Houston also resided. He is also proposing to divert nonviolent drug offenders out of the criminal-justice system into mandatory addiction treatment.
Between Christie’s national profile and the proliferation of social media, the decision sparked a strong response, mostly negative, in the state and beyond its borders.
“Why is NJ lowering our American Flag to honor Whitney Houston? Are they all mad???” “Shame on you for ordering our flag to be flown half-mass for a singer who od’d!” “Are you serious? Whitney is no hero, she was a crack head who killed herself. Our flag is not to be lowered for a junkie."
Christie’s flag order was praised in some quarters.
“The governor did the right thing,” “She was a cultural icon and she brought such recognition to New Jersey that it was appropriate. She grew up in New Jersey, she lived in New Jersey, she paid taxes in New Jersey and she has a school named after her (in East Orange). She brought global attention to New Jersey so it’s an absolutely appropriate thing to do.”